SAMS news room

New forecast service wins award

24 September 2013: A forecasting system to warn of impending harmful algal blooms has won this year’s most beneficial Earth-monitoring service for European citizens.

The Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) Forecast is the first forecast system of its kind and is designed to combine information from in-situ monitoring, satellite data and biological and physical oceanic models. The service provides a weekly alert for fish farmers and regulators in the Atlantic Europe area to warn them of the likelihood of a toxic or harmful event of target species in the following week.

Early warning of severe blooms will give fish and shellfish farmers time to adapt their culture and harvesting practices so as to reduce potential losses.

Professor Keith Davidson, ASIMUTH’s lead scientist at SAMS, said the team was really pleased to receive the award.

"We’ve been working with the end users and hope very much this forecast system will benefit the aquaculture industry. In 2014, subject to funding, the system will be fully operationally tested in Shetland, which has this year suffered months of closure."

HAB Forecast has been developed by the European-funded ASIMUTH (Applied Simulations and Integrated Modelling for the Understanding of Toxic and Harmful Algal Blooms) project. Led by Dr Julie Maguire from Daithi O'Murchu Marine Research Station in Ireland, the project brings together 11 institutes and SMEs from five European countries along Europe’s Atlantic coast.

Each of the partner countries experience HAB problems with prolonged closures—up to 10 months—of aquaculture areas due to toxic HAB events with, in some cases, large losses of farmed fish. In 2005, exceptional blooms of Karenia mikimotoi caused widespread mortalities of benthic organisms along Ireland’s west coast. A year later, a high biomass bloom of the same species killed more bottom-dwelling animals off Scotland’s west coast.

The HAB Forecast consortium includes experts in aquaculture, modelling, earth observation, HAB monitoring programmes, and biological and physical oceanography. Targetted HAB species include Dinophysis spp., Gymnodinium catenatum, Lingulodinium sp., Karenia mikimotoi and Pseudo-nitzschia spp. One of the other aims of the project is to map the inter-regional movement of HABs and to find out if the transport of HABs between ocean regions can be modelled successfully.

HAB Forecast won the award for Best Service Challenge from Copernicus Masters, a European Earth monitoring competition that annually awards prizes to innovative solutions for business and society based on Earth observation data. This year there were nine challenge categories. As winner of Best Service, HAB Forecast will receive satellite data worth EUR40,000 made available with financial support from the European Commission.

The HAB Forecast bulletin is available on the ASIMUTH website

Copernicus Masters - The European Earth Monitoring Competition

About Copernicus

Copernicus, previously known as GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security), is an Earth observation programme. It is headed by the European Commission (EC) in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Environment Agency (EEA).
For more on Copernicus, please visit &

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